A warm welcome to this weeks blog update, the clocks have gone back and we are now officially leaving autumn behind and creeping into winter. This past weekend the changes have been dramatic both the temperature and the look of the landscape has changed. The temperature on Friday night dropped into the minus figures and I think it caught the local council on the hop as it seemed every available vehicle was dispatched to grit the roads as I made my way home late on Friday evening, the trees and vegetation are now showing signs that their winter sleep is nearly here with a lot of trees around our area only being a good gale away from loosing their copper leaves and the bank sides of the River on Saturday have began to look noticeable more bare and beginning to shape into the barren banks we associate with cold, finger tip numbing winter sessions on the bank.
For some the frosts arriving marks an end to their fishing for another year and rods are cleaned and packed away till the warm sun returns next spring, but for some of us all year round anglers the frosts coming sparks an excitement within that the good times are not too far away on our beloved rivers. The change in seasons, as dramatic as they are from autumn to winter mean a lot of anglers have to change the fish they are targeting, some carp anglers target pike in the coming months while river barbel anglers often refine their tactics to target other species like chub that will willingly feed on the coldest of days.
This winter for me will be one of chasing dace bags and hoping to catch the odd chub if I can from the River Dee or the River Dane as I did last year but one big change will be round my other love I have developed and that is a love for pike fishing. Last year I was quite successful with my pike fishing and managed to catch my first double figure pike from the River Dee, a fish of over 13lb and I was more than made up!! But my pike fishing last year was more of an opportunistic approach where I targeting pike as they disrupted my dace fishing. This year I have kitted myself out with some dedicated pike year which is all new to me, I always have the right gear for dealing with the landing and the unhooking of the pike but what I lacked was the terminal tacking to fish live baits properly and I have purchased a few items of tackle in some paternoster booms and quick clip wire traces.
This year my aim is to be more one dimensional with my fishing and having a set target on each session and not dividing my time between two species. I am going to have some sessions this year where I am just going to go and target pike for the whole session, this not only will add some variety to the blog in I will have more time to capture the feel of the session in photographs and videos but it also gives me a chance to adapt a more roving approach which is something you loose when you are sat in the same peg trotting for dace all day. After catching some nice pike last year and seeing some of the fish that have followed my dace in whilst trotting the past few years I am optimistic as the fish are there in the Dee its just about finding them and I cant wait to see what the winter session hold for me.
I did break this weeks session in half with the morning for dace and afternoon for pike just purely to get to grips with the new rigs and how to fish them effectively so I am ready and confident my rigs are right when it comes to devoting a whole session to them and I am glad I did as I think I picked out one big mistake on Saturday and that was fishing the live bait to close to the bottom giving it chance to just lie dormant of the bottom and not fish give off them distressed signals to the pike, so it was a worthwhile experiment and really confirmed to me that the roaming approach is something I am going to love about this style of fishing.
On to this weeks fishing
Leaving the house at a barmy 4am to meet up with my dad on the other side of the Mersey my face was hit instantly by the freezing cold freshness of the evening air its icy cold prickling my face with the subtleness of a inexperienced acupuncturist. Looking up at the crystal clear sky I knew it was close if not below freezing and looking at my car it confirmed it had been below during the night as its windows and paint sported the glittering shimmer of a frost, out came that old faithful de-icer and I was on my way.
The temperature gage in the car read a cosy 2oc but it soon reflected the true temperature as we made our way over a deserted Runcorn Bridge, save for the mad builders attempting to paint this beautiful structure in such chilly conditions. I was soon at my dads warming myself up with a nice strong cup of coffee and before we knew it the time had come to get on our way to pick my uncle up and head to the frosty banks of the River Dee.
We arrived at the banks and quickly picked out a swim each to fish for the day, me any my uncle where quite close together but my dad, being on the feeder had no choice but to fish a swim further upstream, it wasn’t the same him being up out of the way and it did impact on the feel of the session as me and my uncle took it in turns throughout the day to visit him during his lonely vigil.
My plan for the session as mention in the introduction was to fish the morning for dace and then change over around 2pm to fish solely for Mr Pike. Armed with 2 pints of maggot and a pint or so of hemp seed I began to feed my peg as I prepared my rod and terminal tackle for the day ahead. My chosen float for the session was a 8 no 4 wire stem float fished with the weights bulked above a 2 foot hook length of 1lb Bayer Perlon line down to a tiny size 20 Kamasan eyed barbed hook. My rod for the session was my trust 17ft Preston Carbon active float rod and I teamed this up with my closed faced Abu 706 reel loaded with 3lb Drennan Float line.
After what seemed an eternity I was all set to make my first cast, all my setting up rituals where completed with my keep net going in before anything else followed by my bait waiter and then finally my landing net, always in that order and always in the same position, not that I am superstitious at all, well if I am its not worked as I have had some terrible session of late hehe.
The swim I chose to fish had a sunken tree in its right hand margin which just looked like it had to hold the odd better fish and had a steady trot just of the rod tip but also has a slack on the inside line where I hoped to find the odd roach and perch. The flow on the day was easily recognisable as it was laden with and endless parade of leaves that had blown into the river from the trees lining the banks along its course.
Not knowing how this new stretch would fish I set myself a target of catching 20 fish for the session, I find this a nice target to aim for on even the toughest of sessions and gives you a achievable target to aim for. The first few trots through passed by without any interest but I made some changes to my line and found the fish to be more in the flow than I expected and soon began picking up dace with some regularity.
The dace continued to come in the main flow and as expected the odd roach came if the float found its way into the slacker water. I knew if I fished the slacker water I would probably pick up some better roach and dace but this tactic was thwart with danger as I has been luck a few times hitting snags and coming back with just a small branch, so I knew it was a risky strategy and so it proved as I finally hit the snag proper. Over the day I was to find bits of this snag that no doubt resembles a Christmas tree on the bed of the river with numerous anglers’ line and leads as its tinsel and baubles.
The swim continued to tick over nicely and then I hit something solid that at first I thought was the bottom till it started to kick and move out into the flow, at first I thought it was a pike but after having the fish on for a few seconds I knew it wasn’t a pike by the fight it was giving, I could feel the beating of its tail as I kicked, with a pike its more of a solid surge, the fish made for the snag downstream and I managed to turn it but then it made a solid and determined run for the snag to my left and that was it, fight over there was nothing I could do as I could get no angle on the fish to direct it from it, all I know it was a nice fish, gutted!!.
I re rigged up and got back to it and it wasn’t long before the dace moved back in and I was back into the groove of feeding and trotting through the swim and as the morning progressed I lost two more decent fish with one being after I had stepped up to a 3lb hook length, the problem wasn’t so much the size of the fish it was the fact I could not play the fish on the drag as if I gave the fish line I would loose it any way in the snag I had no option but to hit and hold and hope the knots and hook length held and unfortunately they didn’t.
Towards the end of the morning session for silvers I did hit another decent fish and this time I got it in and it instantly proved to me the other fish were in fact big perch the fight was exactly the same and the fish made for the snags just like the others. I was more than made up with this welcome addition to the net but have to admit to being disappointed in losing the others.
I continued to persevere with the trotting and continued to pick up the odd dace here and there but to be honest the fishing was getting worse not better and after snagging on bottom around 1pm I decided to make the change over to the pike fishing and set about getting the gear ready. My final net I didn’t weigh but estimated it to be around 7lb, a nice mornings fishing.
Setting up the pike gear took longer than usual as I have a few new components I had not used before to set up but I was very confident of a bite as the water clarity looked spot on for the pike to be able to easily pick out the fish from some distance and home in on it.
It was whilst setting up my dad appeared at the top of my peg, flustered and out of breath he explained he had caught a pike that had taken his only fish of the morning as he was bringing it in and could I come and unhook it for him. Arriving at his peg he lifter his net out to reveal a pike around 3 or 4lb hooked fair and square in its scissors, a very lucky man as this in generally the only time you get these pike in when they take you fish, if you are lucky enough for the hook to transfer from the prey fish to the pikes mouth whilst avoiding the razor sharp teeth.
I spent a few moments admitting the exquisite markings that the pike had before returning the pike into the margins to terrorise the dace shoals some more and chewed the fat with my dad for a good half hour, his fishing on the feeder had been poor to say the least, but then again as I explained any pike of any size is enough to keep the silvers from feeding in your area confidently.
I returned to my peg and put the finishing touches to my pike rig and introduced the bait into the slack where I had fooled some of the roach earlier and sat back and took in the world around me, a part of my fishing I seem to have lost recently with the hectic all action trotting we have been doing, it was relaxing to just kick back, relax and take in the sights and sounds of the world going by and I must have looked like I didn’t have a care in the world.
During the afternoon I adapted a roving approach spending a good hour in each swim all looked the business and are all swims I have done well in before but alas nothing was forth coming. As you can see below the swims took in all manor of features from dark deep water beneath overhanging trees to submerged sunken trees.
The time came to call it a day and pack in, my dad had a few nice dace in his net but cleverly released them before I could get a picture hehe, while my uncle had put together a nice 9lb net of dace and also reported being snapped once by something he had no chance of stopping, obviously some big fish lurking in the depths and we will no doubt be back soon the battle with these fish again but next time we will come prepared!!.
As we packed the gear away the sun set on another day doing what I love, wetting a line on the river.
And always the optimist the last thing to come out was the pike rod.
Time really did fly on Saturday and I learnt so much form my time spent piking that I will put into my future trips, one, I think my paternoster was too close to the bottom and two I think I had too heave a lead on holding the rig in place, this year I will be happy just mastering the basics of this type of pike fishing and I can see it being so rewarding actually stalking and catching a pike rather than the pike coming to me.
Till next time
I wish you all the tightest of lines and thank you for reading